WR Derrick Engel's status still in doubt for showdown with Wisconsin
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
Jerry Kill and the Minnesota Gophers are two days away from their heavily hyped showdown with No. 16-ranked border rival Wisconsin.
And as early indications revealed, it is likely the Gophers will be without their top wide receiver, Derrick Engel, on Saturday afternoon.
Kill has kept the status of Engel in question since the senior receiver suffered a knee injury in practice Sunday. Kill has declined from giving any updates on the severity of the injury, but did tell reporters Wednesday Engel had been on the practice field to take punt returns. While staying away from specifics, Kill would not rule the key "U" playmaker out.
Engel was listed as "questionable" on the Gophers' injury report, which was released Thursday. But he was left off the depth chart at receiver, another sign of Minnesota's intentional caginess. Redshirt juniors Logan Hutton and Isaac Fruechte have replaced Engel on the two-deep at the H-receiver slot.
Minnesota is undoubtedly a run-first squad, keeping the ball on the ground 71 percent of the time (466 of 655 offensive plays). But the potential absence of Engel is still a blow to the Gophers and their already thin receiving corps.
Engel has put up a 401 yards off 25 catches, 102 yards more than the Gophers' No. 2 receiving option, tight end Maxx Williams. He has also been targeted a team-high 41 times (21 percent of Minnesota's 198 passing attempts).
Without Engel, Williams can be expected to be a focal point of Minnesota's passing game. It will also bring about a major opportunity for freshman Drew Wolitarsky. Surprisingly, Wolitarsky has been the Gophers' third-most targeted receiver (22), but he has reeled in only eight of those passes for 109 yards.
Other injury notes
• Right guard Caleb Bak remains out with a concussion suffered prior to the Gophers' win over Penn State on Nov. 9. Redshirt sophomore Foster Bush is slated to start again in Bak's place.
• No. 3 quarterback Chris Streveler has been sidelined for more than a month with an injured hand. True freshman Conor Rhoda has served as the Gophers' third option under center with Streveler out.